Little Bits of History

July 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2017

1976: Donna Lauria, 18, is killed. She and her friend Jody Valenti, 19, were in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx discussing their evening at a local discotheque. At around 1.10 AM, Lauria got out of the car and a man suddenly appeared. She was startled and angered by the man who drew a gun from a brown paper bag and while crouching, shot her once, killing her instantly. He fired another shot which hit Valenti and a third shot that missed both women. He then fled. Valenti survived and was able to give an adequate description of the assailant to police. A second similar shooting took place on October 23, another shooting incident took place on January 30, 1977, and again on March 8, April 17, and June 26.

During this time, police were investigating the series of shooting which left six dead and eight wounded. The shooter moved around New York City as police attempted to bring in the man responsible who used a.44 caliber Bulldog revolver. On March 10, 1977, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame held a press conference linking several of the city’s unsolved murders to the same assailant. When the killer struck again in April, he left a handwritten letter near the bodies of his two latest victims. He called himself “Son of Sam” and the name quickly replaced the press’s moniker of “the .44 Caliber Killer”. The killer promised to continue his spree and taunted police and their inability to catch him.

On May 30, Jimmy Breslin of the Daily News, received a handwritten letter from someone claiming to be the .44 caliber shooter. The letter contained more taunts to the police as well as symbols. It also mentioned the upcoming one year anniversary of the first killing. Even as the police were on the alert, on July 31, Son of Sam struck again. Witnesses at the scene were able to describe the getaway car and finally on August 9, NYPD detective James Justice called Yonkers police to schedule an interview with David Berkowitz. He was arrested on August 10.

The next day, he was questioned for about thirty minutes and quickly confessed to the shootings and inquired how to plead guilty. He claimed he was told to kill people by the neighbor’s dog. After three separate mental health examinations, it was determined Berkowitz was competent to stand trial. He appeared in court on May 8, 1978 and pled guilty to all the shootings. He was sentenced to 25 yars in prison for each killings, served consecutively. Because he pled guilty, he was eligible for parole in 25 years. His first parole hearing was scheduled in 2002 but he informed the current governor he should remain in prison. He is to have a hearing every two years and has consistently refused to ask for release. He remains in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the state of New York.

I am deeply hurt by your calling me a women hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little “brat”. – David Berkowitz, first letter

Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed in the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks. – David Berkowitz, second letter

Well, you got me. How come it took you such a long time? – David Berkowitz, at arrest

I’d kill her again. I’d kill them all again. – David Berkowitz, at his sentencing

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